Julia DVD: Review By Dodd

This is not a film that portrays the central, criminal character as a mastermind with a solution for every problem. Instead Julia represents the criminals we see in the news every day.
  • OVERALL
    3.5
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
Tilda Swinton. Need I say more?
THE BAD
The movie is a bit too long and the extras are majorly lacking.
THE FEATURE
There is a huge distinction between actors who truly act and "actors" who have the ability to phone it in. I think I a lot of viewers do not give too much though to it, especially when an actor or actress can become someone's favorite simply by the charm they exhibit or the way they style their hair. Take for example George Clooney. There is a huge difference between Michael Clayton, in which the actor carries the film on his shoulders, and Burn After Reading, in which the actor essentially turns his brain off and has fun hamming it up and overusing what used to be his trademark facial twitches. It always seems like the pressure is on for an actor when the title of a movie is the name of the lead character: Michael Clayton, Erin Brockovich, or Patton. Actors in these situations are not simply a part of the movie, but actually are the movie. It means that those tuning in are doing so with the expectation that the movie is dependent on that character. So one can assume that Tilda Swinton has a lot to prove with her role in the film Julia, and one can assume this correctly.

I will get the obvious out of the way. Tilda Swinton plays Julia. In the first 10 minutes, I felt as though I knew Julia when the fact was I had just met her. She is in her 40's and spends her evenings stumbling into bars wearing tacky dresses and guzzling anything in sight containing alcohol. She unsurprisingly wakes up in the bed of an uncaring chauvinist with a case of dry mouth and a hangover. I think anyone who has frequented a bar has seen that person, be it male or female. That lonely soul who makes a fool of his or herself at the bar and ends up leaving with someone they never came with in the first place. Julia is about that one person, and what happens to them after they leave the bar.

After leaving the bar, Julia spends her time dodging AA meetings and trying to figure out how to make ends meet. Her mentally unstable neighbor (Kate del Castillo) makes an offer to pay Julia $50K to kidnap her son from his millionaire grandfather. Of course the nutty neighbor does not have the money and Julia quickly figures this out. However, she does decide to take matters into her own hands and go through with the abduction minus the involvement of the boy's mother. When the boy Tom (Aiden Gould) is playing in the creek, she snatches him and takes him away to a remote hotel where she literally scares the crap out of the lad with her weapon and insensitive threats. But unlike the typical criminals who plan such major acts of crime, Julia can only ask herself in naive desperation, "Now what?"

Julia is a film that spends a great deal of time following the title character and young Tom as Julia tries to figure out how she is supposed to resolve this situation. This is not a film that portrays the central, criminal character as a mastermind with a solution for every problem. Instead Julia represents the criminals we see in the news every day. They are the same pathetic souls who rob a convenient store and get caught less than a block away due to their sloppy strategies. The premise of this film is one that works because we follow a character who is just like most of the other criminals in this world: stupid and frightened.

It should come as no surprise that the heart of the film is Tilda Swinton. Her turn here is very impressive as for once the actress doesn't resemble a Victorian work of art. She is a sweaty mess. Even in scenes where her character is supposed to look good, her portrayal transforms her into a foolish addict with no official game plan. While there are supporting roles with young Tom having the most screen time, Swinton pretty much overshadows everyone. This is very much her movie and she steers it in the right direction.
THE EXTRAS
There are only deleted scenes in the special features department.
THE VIDEO
Widescreen. Director Erick Zonica is clearly influenced by the work of John Cassavetes. Not only are there similarities in camera work, but the premise is uncoincidentally similar to Cassavete's film Gloria.
THE AUDIO
5.1 Dolby Surround. I can honestly say this is not a film driven by music and sound. However, it does effectively focus on the dialogue, which plays a large part in powering the film.
THE PACKAGE
The film is in a standard DVD case. The front cover fittingly pictures a large face shot of Tilda Swinton in all her messy glory.
THE FINAL WORD
Julia is very much an overlooked gem. I would not go so far to rank it as one of the best, but it is worth seeing for anyone who appreciates a wonderful performance. The movie is flawed in that it does run a bit too long. However, Tilda Swinton carries this thing from start to finish and there was rarely a moment when I lost interest. Maybe this is not worth a purchase (although I will be adding it to my collection), but it should take priority as a rental pick.

dodd@movieweb.com

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